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The Way Forward for ComDev in Family Farming and Rural Development in Asia Pacific

Discussion started by Prativa Chhetri 3 years ago

Dear All,

 

Welcome to the final week of regional consultation on “Communication for Development, Community Media and ICTs for Family Farming and Rural Development in Asia Pacific”.

 

This week from 8 through 12 September, 2014 the discussion will focus on “The Way Forward” for ComDev in family farming and rural development in the region.

 

Please share your views/comments/experience on the following questions:

    • What processes and methodologies can be applied to design demand driven and inclusive rural communication policies/services to advance family farming in Asia Pacific?
    • What type of initiatives do you think should be put into practice?
    • How could you or your organisation participate or contribute?

 

Experiences, good practices, trends and proposals with relevant links where possible are most welcome.  Look forward to an insightful discussion in the days ahead.

Thank you!

Replies
Prativa Chhetri
Prativa Chhetri
Dear All,

The highlights of the discussion held on 'The Way Forward' has been uploaded for your information.

Thank you!
3 years ago
Prativa Chhetri
Prativa Chhetri
Thank you Thamizoli for your inputs and also for sharing how gender digital divide could be addressed.
3 years ago
P.Thamizoli
P.Thamizoli
1. What processes and methodologies can be applied to design demand driven and inclusive rural communication policies/services to advocate family farming in the Asia Pacific:

The role of community based organizations and social capital: It is appropriation not adoption of ICT technologies, which makes the men and women farmers of farming households effectively use these technologies as learning tools. Therefore suggest that attention need to be paid to socio cultural imperatives and the supportive role played by Community based organizations ( like farmers associations, farmers clubs, farmers producer companies, federations of self help groups etc) to successfully mobilize the community and actively participate in the learning programme. In the context of such socially mobilized groups the learning/extension takes place in the already established social capital. It facilitates horizontal transfer of knowledge; hence the benefits are not restricted to the individual learners but extended to other family members, relatives, neighbors and other peer group members.

Initiating the learning with such approach would also help to overcome the well established correlation between the digital divide and the gender divide, if the use of technology is placed in an appropriate socio cultural context. Access to technology and information is subtly enhances women’s power to go beyond the culturally constructed space, associate with external agencies and effectively participate in the market economy. Learning through modern ICT tools like mobile phones results in role reversal in the family context, the women learner shares her learning with the men in their families and also help men to realize the importance of learning. The new ICT technologies are helping to overcome the social barriers women generally face and help to have access to information and learning.

Scaling up of best practice: Wide spread adoption of evidence based best practices often takes long time, therefore it is proposed scaling up of best practices through multiple efforts such as creating networks, organize meetings, conferences, advocating for policy formulation/changes etc. Credible business partnership between the major stakeholders operating in the region should be the premise for the replication of best practice model. One should keep in mind that scaling up involves redefining of the tools and concepts, and reworking on the budget of the learning programme.

2. What type of initiatives do you think should be out in to practice:

Comparing with other modern ICT tools, mobile phone is the electronic communication technology most widely used in the developing countries. And definitely mobile have several advantages compared to other ICT tools in terms of reachability, affordability, status of literacy to use the tool, gender disparity etc., and never involves any opportunity costs. Therefore suggested it could be very appropriate if mobile is used particularly for continuous learning and development, according to women and men farmers only context specific need based continuous learning makes sense to their life. It also promotes horizontal learning, which ensures an even distribution of information and knowledge in the existing system of the uneven distribution of information and the knowledge management particularly in the farming families which are divided in to different social and economic groups .

3. How could you or your organization participate or coordinate:

Through Life long learning of Farmers (L3F) programme Commonwealth of Learning has gained considerable experience in using different ICT tools like mobile, community radio, community managed web based learning etc. One of the methods adopted is south south exchange for the mutual learning of partners from different commonwealth developing countries. COL could share the experiences gained with other partners and also coordinate the south south exchange programme as a learning methodology.
3 years ago
Nimmi Chauhan
Nimmi Chauhan
Dear All

I am not responding to specific question in the discussion but here are a few issues from women's perspective and a couple more which impacts farmers irrespective of gender: The following is true at least for the Indian sub-continent though there are exceptions of course as there are other factors like caste, religion, region, etc.

It is a known fact that women do the bulk of labour work on the farms.
1. Women should have joint ownership of the farm land along with their husbands. Usually, the farm land is owned by the men in the house. This needs to change as men use women as free labour. In recent past, women have been given inheritance rights in India but women have to go through a long struggle to get it implemented.

2. Women should have an equal say in the decision-making related to the family farms. Ensuring joint ownership will not automatically translate in women having an equal say.

3. Women should be recognised as farmers too. Why should they be called 'housewife' or 'farmers' wives'?

4. Often women do not have ownership access to communication tools like radio sets or mobile telephones, etc. Those in the business of designing ICT material must keep this in mind too.

Some general issues:
1. The farmers (including women) cannot make an informed choice of switching from traditional crop (suitable to the local ecological conditions) to cash crop (which may not be suited to the specific region and end up draining the natural resources of the region) to genetically modified crop as they do not have adequate information about the long-term and short-term advantages and disadvantages from economical and ecological perspectives. The messages reaching them through the vested interests - either through market forces or the government, but there is none from neutral agencies.

2. There is an increasing disturbing trend the world over of accessing commons and small land holding for development projects. Small farmers are selling a land in the hope of making money. They do not realize that they will end up losing their livelihood in the process and will be further pushed into poverty and debt. Often such families end up working as landless labourers on others farms or unskilled labour in rural and urban areas.

The above two points will have a huge impact on both food security and food sovereignty of some of the poor/marginal communities people in the region.

Thank you!
3 years ago
Prativa Chhetri
Prativa Chhetri
Thank you Jamie, for sharing your insights on the Way Forward for ComDev in Asia Pacific based on the experiences garnered while implementing various projects. It is enriching and we hope to continue learning from PhilRice on the ComDev Asia platform.
3 years ago
Jaime Manalo IV
Jaime Manalo IV
• What processes and methodologies can be applied to design demand driven and inclusive rural communication policies/services to advance family farming in Asia Pacific?
I’d go for a thorough scoping study first before we dive in to any interventions. Sometimes, it is very tempting to go on contemplating how ICTs can be used, what ICTs will be useful without looking first if ICT interventions are the most appropriate. I am speaking based on our experiences with the Infomediary Campaign, an action research that aims to mobilize high school students to serve as information providers in their respective rice farming communities. It was initially thought of as ICT-based project. When we, however, visited the sites, we found that they did not even have electricity. In 2009, we did a research on “E-readiness of the farmers in the five top rice-producing provinces of the Philippines”. It was a survey with close to 1000 farmers as respondents. From there, it was noted that the farmers wanted to receive information from printed publications so they can easily refer back to it should they have questions. ICT anxiety or the feeling of discomfort is one thing that we have repeatedly outlined in our papers. Given these conditions, it would do well to rethink overemphasis on ICTs. They surely are not a magic wand that will address all our concerns. This, however, is not to say that we should not utilize them. The only point is use them where appropriate.
In our scoping studies for the Infomediary Campaign, we made use of several participatory methods to optimize insights from our intended audience. We made use of time transect, photovoice, social mapping etc. These methods give valuable and well thought through responses that help much in crafting relevant interventions.

• What type of initiatives do you think should be put into practice?
There is a need to look into youth involvement in agriculture.
First, there is massive low interest of young people in agriculture. This is something that we all have to address if we are keen on addressing future issues on the scarcity of food producers/scientists. I have seen this issue surface in several international conferences, the latest being the “Asia Pacific Association of Educators in Agriculture and the environment” in Naga City, Philippines last month. It’s also documented quite extensively in the literature.
Second, across Asia there is this phenomenon called the youth bulge, this is simply the massive number of people whose ages range from 15-24 years old. If initiatives will be directed towards this age group, this will be a significant force to be reckoned with.

• How could you or your organisation participate or contribute?
We have already started addressing the concerns I raised above. Presently, I am leading the Infomediary Campaign, which is now being implemented in 81 high schools all over the country. The aims are to bring back the love for science of rice farming among young people, promote agriculture as a good option when they go to universities, and create a new communication pathway on agriculture in rural communities since they are being mobilized to serve as infomediaries (information providers in their respective rice farming communities). We have written plenty of papers on the campaign. Most of them are available online. There are some stuff available as well in our website particularly videos: www.infomediary4d.com We are at the moment populating the content of the website, but you should be able to find some interesting stuff there now.
3 years ago
Prativa Chhetri
Prativa Chhetri
Comments from Dr. Archna Kumar:

Hello everyone I have really enjoyed learning from all the interesting discussions that have been taking place. I could not actively participate as I was in the field and it took longer than expected because of the heavy rains in the area.

In all the discussion I find women farmers are missing. As a group we need to focus more on women farmers and their access and use of ICTs. I think this is not getting reflected enough. We all are aware of the Gender and technology divide however we need to understand more clearly the ‘Gender Digital Divide’ and its ramifications on intra household dynamics, women's agricultural and household work and their bargaining power. A Gender disaggregated understanding of ICTs is much needed and we cannot assume men and women are impacted equally.

In a presently ongoing study of IVR operating in Jharkhand we are seeing huge differentials in men’s and women engagement. Also studies of community radio stations are indicating that CR stations policies and structures influence women’s participation and articulations about issues. Special strategies and affirmative action by CR stations and other ICT based initiatives influences and enhances women’s access and participation in ICT based services. Clearly we need to evolve suitable policy and programme strategies for bridging this gap.

Also researching ICTs especially from a gender lens requires us to revisit methodologies and tools. We have been using innovative participatory methodologies to gain more holistic insights about the effects of ICT and the processes they trigger within communities. Surveys and analytics that can be generated through the computer and web provide a partial picture. Would like to learn from others what they are doing!

Dr. Archna Kumar
Associate Professor
Dept. of Development Communication & Extension
Lady Irwin College; University of Delhi.
Sikandra Road, New Delhi 110001.
3 years ago
Prativa Chhetri
Prativa Chhetri
Dear All

Here is a summary of the main points of discussion of 11 September on “The Way Forward” for ComDev for family farming and rural development in Asia Pacific:

•Processes and methodologies that can be applied
1.Participatory and focussed discussion, capacity building with recent development in technology vis a vis availability and applicability in particular area, listing priority, situation analysis and planning must be undertaken
2.Mechanism of delivery including the support system for implementation should be developed along with monitoring and evaluation at grass root level.
3.Government and the universities should re-consider the objectives and think how the researches and academic discourses can be brought to the field easily and frequently to help the farmers.
4.There is a need to re-look on the target, output and outcome of the extension services of the agricultural universities. The agriculture education should not be confined to the campus of the institutions, it must go to the field and the information should be disseminated for the real practitioners in a participatory model of communication.
5.There is a need to change the negative image of agriculture and promote it as a profession that ensures sustainable food production.
6.Mobile phone has more potentiality to reach the farmers individually in Asia. It is the best means of ICT for the rural smallholder farmers as it is portable, handy. It has reached more than 80% of the population with android penetration reaching 60% in Nepal alone.

•Type of initiatives that can be put into practice
1.Institutional initiatives that is a mixed pool system i.e. NGOs and local governance is the most suitable combination in this process. Others can be individual/NGO based, agencies like radio, newspaper based and corporate based (those corporate who are directly related to stake holders lives)
2.Situation analysis of stake holders, their issues and concerns need to be done and motivated ‘agents of change’ need to be trained and put in charge of small blocks of operation with controlled area. The results needed to be analyzed, compared and reviewed so as to correct the faults and planning for implementation at a large scale can then take place.
3.Another effective initiative is the Community Learning Programme promoted by Commonwealth of Learning and Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia that is participatory for learning for development environment.
This model focuses on the local level involving local stakeholders from the outset in decision-making about topics, messages, and programme design and execution, bring together different types of groups – community networks, media/ICT outlets, health and development experts, public policy representatives – into collaborative programme design, management and evaluation processes. It uses traditional cultural formats, such as storytelling, drama, music and other folk media. It also promotes multichannel and blended approaches, e.g. combining radio with mobile telephony, and face-to-face interactions and community mobilisation with engaging media content and using tools that are familiar to the farmer.
4.There is a need to digitalize agriculture information to enhance learning and research in Nepal.
5.Agriculture and farming activities should be promoted by media. Separate channel to broadcast agriculture news, give updates on innovation and best practices to family farmers from different topographical landscapes is another effective initaitves

•How can they or the organisation participate or contribute?

1.Krishak Biradari (Farmer's Brotherhood) from India has membership of more than ten thousands family farmers and almost 12 nodal agencies who co ordinate all the family farmers. Most of the farmers (almost 90%) are small family farmers having a land holding almost less than 1 hactare and are from tribal groups, backward castes and are below poverty line in general. This group can pose a good case study and example for such issues.
2.Pradeep Sharma can mobilize such programme in India and abroad if needed, negotiate with governmental agencies and other like minded organizations all over the country for this purpose. He can also help other groups for policy advocacy issues and design campaigns to save family farming in Asia Pacific.
3.Ankuran has recently developed an idea on 'C3', i.e. Community Communications Centre (cemca.org.in/blog/ ). It is a revised version of some UNESCO models on Community Information Centre, Community Multimedia Centre etc and is based on participatory model not information dissemination model.
4.Networks like AgriYouthNepal (agriyouthnepal.com) can play a great role in empowering youths towards use of ICT in agriculture development. AgriYouthNepal is building an android application in Nepali with digitalized agricultural information for students and farmers to help contribute for effective implementation of ICT in agriculture in Nepal.
5.Platforms like ComDev Asia should bring more innovations to uplift economic standard of small holder farmers by sharing knowledge that can be put into practice.
6.Madan and his networks have got good knowledge of web 2.0 technology and are willing to carry out projects on ICT for agriculture development.

Thank you once again for your contributions and look forward to hearing from others in the region.
3 years ago
Prativa Chhetri
Prativa Chhetri
Thank you Pradeep, Ankuran and Madan for your inputs on the processes and methodologies that can be applied, initiatives that should take place and how you and your organisation can contribute to the role of ComDev for family farming and rural development in Asia Pacific. Your contribution and insights are deeply appreciated and noted.
3 years ago
Madan
Madan
Hello All,
Agriculture has an image problem. Youth don't want to engage in farm and enjoy their living. It seems to be less demanding, non prestigious and outdated profession.
It's a moment to change the negative mindsets about farming and cultivate seeds of change for sustainable food production.
To promote farming among young people and to raise profile of family farmers ICT can play a great role.
Talking about Nepal, we don't have good agriculture database. There is a need to digitalize agriculture information to enhance learning and research.
Agriculture and farming activities are less promoted by media. There is a need of saperate channel to broadcast agriculture news, upadtes innovation and best practices which could reach to almost all family farmers from different landscapes.
Mobile phone technology is the best means of ICT than the other means in the rural part of the country as it has been diffused vigorously. It has advantages over the other ICT tools. Internet based ICT tools needs ensured internet, electricity and the advanced expensive devices. So the mobile phone technology is the best means to diffuse the agricultural information for the rural smallholder farmers as a portable and handy mass media communication means. As mobile penetration has reached to more than 80% and android penetration has reached to 60% in Nepal focus should be given to such information manaement system which are easily accessible to family farmers.
Youth has a great role in implementing ICT in learning and for Farming. Platforms like Young Professionals for Agriculture Developemt(YPARD) should be promoted and everyone should be encourage to contribue from their side for sustainable agriculture development. I agree with Ankuran that our agriculture course is outdated and limited in learning. Students from farming background should be encouraged to persue agriculture course. The methodoligies of agriculture extension are traditional, effective implementation of ICT could deliver services to targeted one easily.
The situation here reveals that the majority of the students are unaware about the use of advance searching techniques and about the databases relevant to their subject, use of electronic book, and browsing e-journals. Networks like AgriYouthNepal (agriyouthnepal.com) can play a great role in empowering youths towards use of ICT in agriculure development if they get supportive hands. Recently, AgriYouthNepal is buiding an android application in Nepali with digitalized agricultural information for students and farmers. Certainly, such innovations could really contribute for effective implementation of ICT in agriculture in Nepal particularly.
Hope platforms like ComDev will bring more innovations to uplift economic standard of small holder farmers bringing knowledge into practice.
Me and my networks have got good knowledge of web 2.0 tehnology, under a supportive hands we can carry out projects of ICT for agriculture developement. Hope we will get support from ComDev.
Sincerely,
Madan Poudel
Student Agriculture and Forestry University, Rampur, Chitwan
Member YPARD
President AgriYouthNepal
madan@agriyouthnepal(dot)com
3 years ago
Ankuran
Ankuran
The agricultural universities have their agricultural extension services. But how many messages practically deliver to the farmers? What are the methodologies of information dissemination of these agricultural extension services? The educational institutions should think for the impact of education in the rural areas. The objectives of the agricultural education should not confined to award the successful students with degrees. So, there is a need to re-look on the target, output and outcome of the extension services of the universities. In the developing countries like India, Bangladesh, Nepal, the agriculture education should not be confined to the campus of the institutions. It must go to the field and the information should be disseminated for the real practitioners. Here, I want to clarify one issue. The concept of information dissemination should be changed to a participatory model of communication.
Our organisation - Commonwealth of Learning and Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia are working on a model of programme designing, known as Community Learning Programme. This model is focused on the local level, generally in one or perhaps two districts, involves local stakeholders from the outset in decision-making about topics, messages, and programme design and execution, bring together different types of groups – community networks, media/ICT outlets, health and development experts, public policy representatives – into collaborative programme design, management and evaluation processes. It uses traditional cultural formats, such as storytelling, drama, music and other folk media. It also promotes multichannel and blended approaches, e.g. combining radio with mobile telephony, and face-to-face interactions and community mobilisation with engaging media content.
While using different tools of communication, it should be noticed that the tools are familiar to the rural farmers. In summing up the discussion, the government and the universities should re-consider the objectives and think how the researches and academic discourses can bring to the field easily, frequently to help the farmers. Definitely, the first preference should be on community media or concept like farm radio. It will definitely help the farmers. But again the programme designing should not be one way, it must be participatory for a learning for development environment. But, use of mobile has more potentiality to reach the farmers individually. We need cost effective model for that. I have recently tried to develop an idea on 'C3', i.e. Community Communications Centre (cemca.org.in/blog/…). It may be a revised version of some UNESCO models on Community Information Centre, Community Multimedia Centre etc. But C3 based on participatory model not information dissemination model. It can be a solution in the near future. In our organisation, we want to work on the communication in a participatory form for a healthy community, where farmers are the main target group.
3 years ago
Pradeep Sharma
Pradeep Sharma
Dear all
The questions posted for discussion requires serious pondering as it was not a day job to answer about clues which encompasses family farmers issues in all Asia and Asia pacific. I would try to answer one by one to related topics
1. What processes and methodologies can be applied:
1. The process should be participatory discussion and more of experience sharing and should start with identifying significant people .
2.Engage all of them in a very focused discussion and then personal meeting and exposure of others work be facilitated.
3. Incapacitate them with recent development in technology vis a vis availability and applicability in their particular ares.
4. Listing out priority areas in a particular area by proper situation analysis and to make plan how this plan and strategy can be employed. Developing some marker for evalution and monitoring the outcome at grass root level.
5. Develop mechanism of delivery including the support system for implementation
6. Developing some parameters and marker for evaluation and monitoring the outcome at grass root level.
2. Question2.
Type of initiatives do you think should be put into practice:
Institutional initiatives are most important , I think a mixed pool system i.e. NGOs and local governance ( if at all interested) will be most suitable combination into this process. The situation analysis of stake holders , their issues , concern and structure of accepting the experiment needed to be well anaysed and then motivated ‘agents of change’ needed to be trained and put them developing small blocks of operation with controlled area. The results needed to be analyzed compared reviw an correct the process and then implementation at big scale should be planned.
Intitiaties should be
a) Individual / ngo based.
b.) Agencies like radio, newspaper based
c) Corporate based ( Corporates who are directly related to stake holders lives)
Question Three: • How could you or your organisation participate or contribute?
As you know We are more than ten thousands family farmers and almost 12 nodal agencies who co ordinate all the family farmers. I am convener of the group. So this group can work to participate in all above said initiatives and also can create an appropriate model for communication of family farmers. Most of the ( almost 90%) farmers are small family farmers having a land holding almost less than 1 hactare . They are tribals , backward casts and below poverty line in general. In this group I can work as a resource person, Initiator and facilitator for community communication programs as specially dedicated program for family farmers in the group of more than 10 thousand farmers of central India. These groups are also connected to other farmers groups of the country. So they can pose a good case study and example for such issues.
Personally I can mobilize such program in our country and abroad if needed , negotiate with governmental agencies and other like minded organizations all over the country for this purpose. I can also help other groups for policy advocacy issues and design campaigns to save family farming in Asia and Asia Pacific.
3 years ago
Prativa Chhetri
Prativa Chhetri
Dear All

Here is a summary of Cleofe’s post on 10 September regarding “The Way Forward” for ComDev for family farming and rural development in Asia Pacific.

•Designing rural communication services including enabling policies require planning. The benefits of a good ComDev plan far outweigh the time invested doing the plan as errors are minimized and resources are used more efficiently.
•Preparatory work has to be done to understand the current situation, issues and the various stakeholders who are affected. This stage already requires participatory communication methods and tools that will help generate the needed information/data. Then this information has to be processed systematically so that any communication service that will be designed will be relevant to the farmers' needs and demands.
•An example of this process was followed by Agriculture Information Services (AIS) in the Ministry of Agriculture in Bangladesh while installing its community radio for farming villages. Baseline study on listenership and potential for community participation were conducted. Data on the villagers’ information needs, radio access and ownership, preferred radio programs, formats, time, music and other relevant information for designing a community radio were collected and addressed. This process lead to the ownership of the radio by the villagers who now are active volunteers in collecting community news, airing news and features, and even rendering their talents in singing on the radio.
•A sourcebook on “Comdev Planning for Rural Development” meant for development workers, communication practitioners, agriculture technicians by FAO and College of Development Communication in University of Philippines, Los Banos has been introduced and will be shortly uploaded in this website
•The College of Development Communication in University of Philippines, Los Banos in the Philippines can participate and contribute in the area of capacity building in ComDev planning for family farming.

Please share your knowledge and experience on designing communication policies and the types of initiatives that need to be put into practice to advance family farming in Asia Pacific. Also do let us know how you and your organisation can participate/contribute in this endeavour.

Thanking you and look forward to your contributions.
3 years ago
Prativa Chhetri
Prativa Chhetri
Dear All,

The website experienced some technical problem this morning but is resolved now thanks to the support of the technical team.

The second week discussion report has also been uploaded for your information.

Please note that the discussion this week is focussing on “The Way Forward” for ComDev in the region. Please share your views and perspectives on the following questions:
•What processes and methodologies can be applied to design demand driven and inclusive rural communication policies/services to advance family farming in Asia Pacific?
•What type of initiatives do you think should be put into practice?
•How could you or your organisation participate or contribute?

I kindly request your feedback and contributions so that we can bring the discussion to its logical end with recommendations for the role of ComDev for family farming and rural development in Asia Pacific region.

Thank you!
3 years ago
Prativa Chhetri
Prativa Chhetri
Thank you Tom for sharing the results of the research and experience of young farmers in Australia and some of these trends are also being seen in the other countries of the region which needs to be addressed.

I once again would like to draw the attention of all to the topic of discussion this week. This week we are focussing on “The Way Forward” for ComDev in family farming and rural development in Asia Pacific.

Please share your views/comments/experience on the following questions:
•What processes and methodologies can be applied to design demand driven and inclusive rural communication policies/services to advance family farming in Asia Pacific?
•What type of initiatives do you think should be put into practice?
•How could you or your organisation participate or contribute?

Look forward to contributions to make this consultation fruitful.

Thank you!
3 years ago
Tom Whitty
Tom Whitty
Hello all! I would like to provide you with some Australian research and experience in regard to young farmers. While this is not explicitly linked to Family Farming, it is important research which in summary states that while the number of farmers has rapidly decreased (by 75% between 1981 and 2011) the number of farms in Australia have increased. Succession planning remains the most pertinent factor in family farming in Australia.

Attached in the body of this comment is a summary of the research carried out by industry and the RIRDC.

The count of young farmers (aged under 35) has fallen from 71,200 to 17,718 between 1981 and 2011. This is a 75 per cent fall.

Fewer farms: The main cause of this decline in young farmers is the decreasing number of Australian farms. As farms grow in size, the number of farms decreases. This explains at least 68 per cent of the reduction in the young farmer population. This is almost certainly an underestimate.

Changes in the Australian workforce: The age structure of the Australian workforce has changed significantly over the past 30 years. As baby-boomers age, they are increasing the share of the workforce in older age groups. Meanwhile, Australians aged under 25 years have been entering the workforce later. These changes have flowed through into the farming population, explaining almost 10 per cent of the decline in the young farmer population.1

Later farmer retirement:
Older farmers are farming longer and retiring later. Improvements in labour saving machinery, and improved health and longer life expectancy have made this possible. Farmers who farm until later in life delay the opportunity for younger people to enter farming. It also increases the proportion of farmers aged over 55 and decreases the proportion aged under 35. This accounts for approximately eight per cent of the decline in the young farmer population.

Changed partnering behaviour:
Many women become farmers by marrying a farmer. The age of first marriage has risen since the 1970s. This has meant women are entering farming partnerships later than a generation ago. Today, when they do enter, they are more likely to bring a non-farming career with them, and are more likely to nominate this as their main occupation when filling in their census form. We estimate these social changes can account for 2.5 per cent of the decline in the young farmer population.

Farming less attractive?:
Combined, these changes explain at least 86 per cent of the decline in the number of young farmers. A portion of the remaining unexplained 14 per cent of the decline may be attributed to the declining attractiveness of farming as an occupation in comparison to the opportunities available in farming.

Many small farms, few large farms: Another explanation of the remaining 14 percent may be found in the distribution of Australian farm sizes. Australia has many small farms, and a small number of large farms. The largest quarter of Australia’s farms produce 75 per cent of Australian agricultural output. These larger farms are more likely to attract younger entrants to farming through family succession, while the small farms are too small to be financially attractive to the younger generation and so older farmers remain.

A younger age profile on large farms is masked by a calculation of median age that includes the many small farms with older operators, which produce a small share of Australia’s agricultural output.

Australia has a relatively young farmer population: Despite the 75 per cent fall in the younger farmer population, the Australian farm sector remains relatively young. We compared Australia with 29 other countries using data for 2006 or 2007. Only one of these countries, New Zealand, had a younger farming age profile. Australia, with 14 per cent of its farmer population aged under 35, was much younger than Canada (9%), the United States (5%) and the UK (3%). We cannot tell whether the Australian farm sector will remain younger into the future, or whether Australia is merely lagging trends in other developed countries.

Conclusions
The decline in the young farmer population is not a threat to Australian food security or agricultural production. Larger farms, which produce the majority of Australia’s agricultural output appear to be more successful in attracting younger farmers.

Policy settings that do not hinder farm aggregation will be more likely to maintain a younger age profile in the farming sector.

These policy settings will not be able to maintain the absolute number of younger farmers in rural Australia.
The median age indicator is misleading as it is unduly sensitive to the large number of older farmers operating small farms. A better statistic could be created by weighting age by value of production. The lack of linkage between ABS Population and Agricultural data sets makes it difficult to do this.
3 years ago

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